Trying to Create Boundaries

I feel l have learned so much about ADD since last summer when a counselor first suggested it might be a fit for my dh. As many others, I associated ADD with hyperactive kids. Inattentive subset fits my dh to a T. When I subsequently read Melissa's book I felt like I was reading my memoir. Our youngest son, now eight, fits the description as well. I homeschool him and learning about ADD has changed how I handle his symptoms -- his distractibility; extreme emotional responses unwarranted for the situation; impulsivity; etc.

My son's behavior has cost me a dear friendship, actually: my friend took care of my (three) kids for a week and in retrospect I think she thought she could "fix" my youngest with what she viewed as a lack of discipline. The week ended up being hell for her, not surprisingly. I felt really bad because I knew she meant well, and because I had only just begun to learn about ADHD and what it all meant, so I had not prepared her or even understood what I was leaving in her hands or I would never have done it. She had offered to take the kids that week and I let her, ironically, because I was desperate to spend time with my husband and try to salvage and even (silly me) strengthen our marriage. The week in that regard ended up being a waste of time so I should not have bothered. I had never, ever had a week with my husband away from the kids before. (We never even had a honeymoon. Oh, and we did everything in the right order, just very fast.) And now I have decided that I never will again. I can never leave my youngest son again and go away like that. But this post isn't about my youngest son. 

My dh will do nothing about getting assessed or otherwise exploring a diagnosis in general. This won't surprise most of you reading this. He says he will, but right now he's too overwhelmed with work to do anything else. And no, he doesn't see the irony. He is active duty military and right now he is going to school full-time. As in, going to school is his job. The assigned papers and finals are totally stressing him out and he can think about nothing else. Now I understand this as the "hyper focus" and recognize it for what it's worth. Right now it's school, but it's always been something. I used to take it so personally. I wish I could say that I am helping him in any way I can, because I do feel compassion for his situation. But honestly, I am just exhausted and numb. I still get angry, but mostly I have gained control of that response and I'm just left feeling extremely sad and bereft. I have my hands full with homeschooling three kids and taking care of everything. else: finances; housework; schedules; meal planning; shopping; cooking; chauffeuring... Moms everywhere know the drill. Honestly, when he's not home at all things are easier -- at least I'm not perpetually disappointed by the things he isn't doing. In fact, the other day he claimed that at least he took care of his own dishes and I actually laughed out loud. After asking if he was serious (he's regularly sarcastic) I calmly stated that he took care of his own dishes, at best, 50% of the time. He was clearly taken aback: I had not called him out on anything like that for so long. And without any anger from me, his normal defenses seemed to fail him.  

I can tell he struggles with taking this whole ADD thing as a cop out on my part or a way of placing the blame of all our problems on him. He wants to blame my anger over the last 18 years for the state of our marriage today. And I let him blame me, for years and years. I struggled and strived to get a grip on my anger. I didn't understand it either. I had no idea where it came from. That had never been me before! But even though I no longer have outbursts of anger over every disappointment he still blames my anger for his lack of ... anything. I just want to give our teenage son as an example. And even though such a short (ahem) synopsis can never paint a complete picture, I am looking for any insight or encouragement anyone might be able to give. 

Dh will not support me in front of our son. Will. Not. As in, I've asked him to, very directly. "I need you to verbally support me in front of our son." He says that he talks to him later, when I'm not around. Why? Why not in the moment? When I need him? To show our son that his dad is on his mom's side? I get all kinds of answers for that: I don't know what to say in the heat of the moment; I can't support you when you're 'like that'. I've tried to explain to him that, I get 'like that' because our son is speaking to me in a disrespectful way, and it's my job not to ignore it.

I've come to learn from reading Melissa's book, and this forum, that dh does not have a normal gauge of conflict; as in, he truly believes that all conflict is bad. When I am engaging in conflict, he sees me as being overly emotional. He has asked me before, "Don't you think you have a problem with emotional regulation?" I've tried taking all emotion out of my voice when I make requests, no joke. I'm still ignored. I write things down. I use silly tones. I ask nicely. Again and again. He honestly thinks I've always just blown up out of nowhere. He just sees himself as a guy who's not perfect but he's trying his best so that should count for something and I'm just making a big deal out of nothing and I just need to relax. 

I am in full-fledged mourning here, but still not out of denial. I just can't quite believe I will never have the kind of relationship that I believe can be possible. Hope springs eternal and all that. I have stayed with him because of hope, but I increasingly feel more and more foolish for that hope. I am currently crossing over from hope into staying because leaving simply seems ridiculous: things aren't that bad. He's been a good provider. He's a good dad. In fact, in one of our (many) worst moments, years ago, in one of the two or three times (in 18 years) he's sincerely acknowledged that he's had a part in all this, he divulged that when he was young he swore that he would be such a better dad than his ever was. But he never thought about what kind of husband he would be. 

I am trying to be more cognizant of my own shortcomings and weaknesses so as to take control of what I can actually control. How this played out recently was for a weekend trip that the whole family was supposed to go on. Our teenage son had a sporting event in another city a few hours away, so I planned for us all to spend a couple of nights in a hotel and to visit a museum in the area over the same weekend.

The day we were going to leave, I admonished our teenage for not taking care of his dishes, which he regularly blows off. (In this case, his dishes were still out from the night before. I had reminded him before I went to bed to take care of them. All of this is a regular occurrence. Yes, I've tried everything.) (And no, FWIW, I don't think he's ADD.) Dh was standing there and said nothing, except to make a joke, which is typical. It's like he thinks he needs to lighten the mood. Keeping in mind that all I was doing was telling our son to do the dishes: I wasn't screaming or yelling or otherwise frothing at the mouth.

So I recognized in myself that I was feeling very upset about this -- I want to say, even though it happens all the time, but really, it's because it happens all the time. I admonish our son; dh says nothing. (Or makes an unrelated joke.) So I excuse myself before I get even madder which is what dh is waiting for, and it occurs to me: I have choices here. 

So I tell dh that I don't think we all should go away for the weekend. It would be better if he and our teenage son went alone. If ds and I were going to butt heads and dh wasn't going to get involved, it was going to upset me and I didn't think I could handle it. 

Dh is a man of few words, but I think it's safe to surmise that he thought I was being extreme. And I struggled with feeling guilty. And, of course, feeling disappointed. And feeling like I was creating a situation out of nothing. I can cite many experiences when I have felt overwhelmed with circumstances (like with trips) and under supported when it came to our son, but this is the first time I took steps to try to prevent a bad scenario from happening instead of being cajoled into going and doing my best to bite my tongue (and often failing).

I'm writing this as they're still gone, actually. But there will be no talking about it when they're back, I'm afraid. At least, not in a productive manner. Dh feels justified in not supporting me in front of our son. He has said this in words, so I know I'm not just trying to read his mind. (And I'm trying to catch myself when I do that and stop, but it's so hard, because he truly doesn't initiate serious discussions with me, ever. And I can't tell you how many times I have engaged him in conversation, paused significantly, for minutes, to allow him time to respond, and have gotten nothing in return but silence.) I can't seem to go indefinitely without getting upset about his lack of verbal support. I've tried all manner of ways to relate to our son in a healthy way, but whenever I get the least bit emotional, to include sounding impatient, or annoyed, or even a little grumpy, then I lose all credibility. And ds knows from experience that I'm on my own. I don't blame him at all, actually. His parents are clearly divided; it's only natural for a teenager to try to get away with doing as little as possible and to let his dad's silence justify how he talks to and otherwise ignores his mother. 

How my teenager relates to me is just one symptom of what is just an unhealthy marriage with zero emotional connection and support. At times, I have wondered if it wouldn't be better for my kids to not have a marriage modeled for them at all rather than to have them learning unconsciously from the one we have. Whenever I try to talk to someone about the struggles with my son, it's always, "Well, that's teenagers for you." And I struggle to share things about my husband because I feel so guilty and ashamed of it for some reason, and how could I have let it go on like this for so long? I know I have my part in it with how I have reacted in anger over the years. But just like others I have read in this forum, even when I changed my behavior and responses, nothing else changed. If I don't bring something up, then we never talk about it. It should almost be nice, really, because he never calls me on anything -- or even seems to notice anything, actually. If he has a problem, I never hear anything about it unless I go to him about something first. And then everything gets turned around to be about how awful I am. "Why don't you come and talk to me? Why do you wait for me to come talk to you?" If I had a dollar for every time I've asked him that. If I could just be okay with how things are and never have to talk to him...

If it weren't for all the difficult moves as a military family and always having to start over and forge new local friendships and support, I could see just leading parallel lives. As it is, we're supposed to move again this year -- for the 11th time -- and I'm scared to death. I'm tired and I know I won't be able to do everything and take care of all the details and keep all my emotions at bay all of the time. And yes, I've tried to talk to him about my fears and concerns and that I need his support. I'm still waiting for a sincere response.  

 

 

Wow!

I read the entire post...it is well written and I can tell it is from an aching sincere heart.  Your dh and mine are totally twins!  I am glad you have learned about ADD for you and your son's benefits.  I feel so badly now that I am learning more because I believe my ds also has it.  He is grown and married and I only learned about ADD (as opposed to ADHD) last year.  I didn't know what the focus on video games, the drumming/tapping and blank looks was about other than I thought they were bad habits I thought I needed to counsel him to break because they were annoying and disrespectful.  I can't be ashamed for my ignorance...it just wasn't known and ds wasn't a talker.  And now I can't undo my reactions of the past.  I can only let him know he is loved and that I see and appreciate him.

Every word you wrote is a confirmation for me that I am not crazy or irrational or asking for too much.  My dh uses the same phrases as yours.  Even the disrespect in front of my sons and the lack of parenting from him but rather interfering with jocularity.  

It doesn't sound good to move so much with an ADD child.  I can relate to your anxieties.  I was one to have too much pride in myself to go to parents or siblings for help.  I thought they could not or would not help me.  I am older than you.  I look back and had I known about the ADD in dh and ds, and how life turns out in the long run, I wish I would have appreciated my family of origin more and trusted them with my concerns and heartache.  They would not have had the words or comfort, but they would have been there for me as a place to land (albeit with lots of disheartening feelings and discomfort).  Yet, now I know that family could have been a great source of peace and comfort as years go by.  Put up with them as they might put up with you and permit them to be a part of your life no matter how icky or uncomfortable that might be.  I wish that is what I had done rather than slowly being drained of my confidence and integrity. Find some help.  Old friends, church, siblings, counseling.  Lean on them for a while until you feel loved and cared for yourself. 

"....slowly being drained of my confidence and integrity."

Thank you so much for responding and sharing some of your story. I know a lot of you have been on this forum for years and have become familiar with each others' stories and journeys and I don't know if and when I'll be able to catch up on that, so I appreciate you taking the time to respond to someone unfamiliar. 

jennalemon -- Does your son know now? Or has he been assessed or had it otherwise come up in discussion? Did you think he had ADHD before even though it didn't quite fit? 

"....slowly being drained of my confidence and integrity." Yes, that totally resonates. I have slowly been gaining some of that back in the last year. This forum is now part of the latter, for myself anyway. 

Even though we have tried counseling off and on over the years (very difficult to do moving around) the counselor last summer was the first one to suggest ADD for my husband. I feel like so. much. time has been wasted with him always pointing fingers at my outbursts of anger and saying he just wants to have peace and Can't We Just Get Along? and me being left to feel like I'm just a b*tch and am asking too much: he's just a guy doing the best he can, after all. 

Reading this forum makes me feel like I'm not so alone, and not so foolish after all to have no idea about the signs and symptoms of ADD and how it can play out in a marriage. Especially the inattentive subtype. It simply explains everything. I've told dh as much, too. I know he saw Melissa's book that I left lying around, months ago now, completely marked up. But he didn't want to talk about it. (And for once I didn't push.) He made a comment about how I've Got This All Figured Out and I know for him it's just another way of blaming him for my anger. I've said very clearly that I'm not excusing my angry behavior. But I do understand it now! And I'm not crazy! He really wants me to be crazy so he's off the hook. And yes, those are my words, not his: when I ask him, he says That's Just Not True. But his actions say something else entirely.

Whatever picture he paints of me to counselors/shrinks/chaplains convinces him that I'm just unreasonable and there's nothing he can do. I've been "diagnosed" with emotional unregulation and BPD. The last one really hurts to type out and I can't even believe I'm divulging that here, but I'm tired of secrets. Thankfully, the counselor we both saw last year for several months was astounded by that "diagnosis" and stated very clearly the doc who "diagnosed" me with BPD was unprofessional and incorrect. I keep putting "diagnosed" in quotes because nothing was ever official. In fact, I didn't even know about the "diagnosis" until we started seeing the counselor last year! It's like these people have just thrown these terms out and dh latches on to any bone that points to me being the problem and him being a helpless victim. In fact, the doc who told him I "probably had BPD" told him to not say a word to me about it. Nor did she ever say anything to me, though I was seeing her, too. Can you imagine? Needless to say, her "counseling" led to no changes in our marriage and probably did irreparable harm. It took dh two years. Two years. For him to even let on to me that he had been told something like that. 

I don't know if he still believes it or not, despite our last counselor dismissing it entirely. I don't know if he ever believed it. He doesn't talk about it. Or anything else to do with us. I have suggested that he read Melissa's book for himself because it gives both sides. I've also pointed out that if he picks it up and just reads snippets that I have underlined or highlighted, that he's only going to read what resonated with me and would probably just feel blamed. I would love to sit down and talk about the parts that resonated with him. But he would have to actually read the book, and then be willing to talk...

I also understand that I cannot "diagnose" my own husband with ADD. I told him as much and that's why I asked him to get a professional assessment. That was three months ago. I don't know if he'll ever go in, and if he does I don't know who he will find to give it. Military can have a lot of stigma associated with mental health or a diagnosis of any kind. I know he's gotten to where he feels desperate, too. So I think what's stopping him now... is the ADD. He's hyper focused on work. And even thinking about thinking about anything else overwhelms him. So I'm left to cope as best I can on my own. And to wonder if it really is ADD. If it's not, then something's going on that mimics it exactly. Reading Melissa's book felt like I was reading about my life. 

I've taken a break for a couple of months from reading about ADD or anything related. It just became too emotionally burdening. I needed to step back and stop trying to diagnose everyone and just focus on loving them. That has worked for awhile. But then something happens to trigger an angry response in me, like this past weekend, and I have to expend so much energy to try to get over my hurt feelings on my own and I'm reminded of how lonely this marriage really is. 

I'm not currently seeing a counselor. The last one we saw together helped for a while -- the first one who ever did, actually. Then dh went on a business trip (TDY if you're military) for several months, and then his dad died. He stopped going, saying "it's just too much." Really, that's understandable. Especially in light of what I think I understand now. I continued to go for awhile but there was really nothing more to talk about and no new ground to be gained. When the reason you're seeing a counselor is for your marriage but your husband won't go, then after a while there's just no point in going anymore.

But I recognize the need just to be able to talk to someone. I have shared some of this stuff now with members of my family, who live elsewhere. (Being military, naturally we have no family nearby.) My sisters totally get it. At least, they totally get that there's something to get, if that makes sense. And they're really amazing, actually. But they're far away and very busy with lives and families and responsibilities of their own.  It's also really difficult for me to reach out to them in moments I am really hurting. My instinct is to isolate myself and not show that part of me; nor do I feel like rehashing it all: it's so emotionally draining. And shameful, yes. I am recognizing more and more that over the years I have stayed silent because I have felt ashamed. Although nowadays I'm more just tired. 

Do you see a counselor? Or talk to anyone specifically about your marriage? Or do you just find fulfillment elsewhere completely unrelated to your husband? 

I see myself doing that, more and more: finding fulfillment elsewhere. But ultimately something happens to trigger a response in me that reminds me of how lonely I really am. Oh, and we keep moving, so starting over and putting on a merry face to make new friends and find that support is getting old. I love, love, love to meet new people, thankfully. But I feel like the face I put out there is so false because I'm hiding the pain that is my marriage. 

Thanks again for listening.